FIVE mobile units and a platform rig are currently active on E&A drilling on the UKCS. The decline since last month reflects recent rig departures from the sector – semi-submersible Byford Dolphin departing for Norway and drillship Stena Carron to Canadian Atlantic waters.
Sedco 714 has moved to port for two months before recommencing its long-running contract with Total, while Ocean Nomad and Transocean Rather, latterly with Talisman and DONG, respectively, are now warm stacked.
The JW McLean has switched roles from E&A to development drilling for Suncor, although Ensco 92, recently tied up on development duties for BHP in the East Irish Sea, has returned to E&A drilling in that province.
Well starts in 2009 number 37 – 20 exploration and 17 appraisal wells. Additionally, six exploration and 30 appraisal sidetracks swell the overall numbers.
Three wells are active in the Central North Sea; Nexen’s Hobby North appraisal sidetrack 20/1-11Z and Venture’s northern Acorn appraisal, 29/8a-6.
The only new start in the CNS is Shell’s 22/12a-11, exploring the Jurassic Stavro Prospect using Sedco 711.
Petro-Canada/Suncor abandoned the second sidetrack of its Nutmeg exploration well, 12/25-4, without comment, ending an intensive E&A programme on the block before the JW McLean mobilised for West Gannet development drilling.
The end date for Talisman’s second sidetrack, a further appraisal leg of the Jurassic Shaw discovery, 22/22a-7, missed last month’s report but is confirmed as a success. Ocean Nomad is currently stacked, but operationally ready, in the UK.
West of Shetland is currently devoid of any drilling now that an intensive period of activity has ended following the completion of successful operations on Hurricane’s Lancaster appraisal well, 205/21a-4; DONG’s Glenlivet well; 214/30a-2Y, and OMV’s Tornado exploration well, 204/13-1Z. With a significant level of drilling also mooted for 2010, rig availability, especially in the deeper waters of this sector, will be a major consideration for operators.
In the Northern North Sea, there are no mobile units active now that Total’s Balvenie exploration well, 3/14d-18, has been suspended as an oil find, and the Sedco 714 has moved for a scheduled two-month port call.
The semi-submersible will recommence its busy programme for Total in the sector, probably towards end of January 2010. The operator’s appraisal, 3/9a-N52, is currently running casing in a second mechanical sidetrack (52Y) from the Alwyn North platform.
Venture’s – or Centrica’s – Annabel East appraisal infill well, 48/10a-15Y, remains the sole E&A drilling activity in the Southern North Sea four months since the initial well was spudded with Noble Julie Robertson on July 30. Centrica is likely to drill the former Venture Alcyone prospect on block 53/3d using the NJR on completion of operations.
In the East Irish Sea, jack-up Ensco 92 has recommenced E&A drilling following a 10-week stint at BHP’s Lennox field working on development well 110/15-L14, plus two sidetracks. On November 12, the rig spudded Centrica’s 113/27b-6 well on the Triassic Rhyl prospect.
The low level of well starts over the last month is in sharp contrast to the eight E&A wells spudded in November last year. December 2009 starts will bolster the year’s total, but even the lower end of our previous estimate of 10-20 wells remaining, the current year looks difficult to attain, although not impossible.
The resumption of relatively short-duration wells in the East Irish Sea will help the numbers, and waiting in the wings is the expectation of spuds for EOG, Nexen and Ithaca in the Central North Sea, plus probable further activity for Centrica on former Venture acreage in the Southern Gas Basin.
Indications for 2010 remain strong, but the availability – or lack of – drilling units in the sector, and at the right price for all parties, will continue to be an influencing factor.
Simon Robertshaw’s column is courtesy of drilling analysts Hannon Westwood LLP